Monday, November 28, 2011

Shopping During the Holidays

Shopping malls across American are packed, there’s no parking and consumers are consuming. On the other hand, imports are down and California ports are noting this trend. So which is it, retailers are having a happy holiday season or there is less demand for products? Most analysts want to have it both ways. It is simply not possible for less product availability to make for happy and spending consumers. I’ve recently come across multiple articles that state that Black Friday was a success and the stores were packed with shoppers spending. There are even interviews with the happy hunters explaining that they got a great deal and only spent $3000.00 for the privilege. Even some of those picked for interviews exclaim “while hosting two large bags of clothes” how they got great deals and spent about 60% less than they normally would have to spend for such bounty. But what about all those other people who walk out of the store bagless without spending a dime?

I think that Americans are so conditioned to shop during the holidays that we wander around local malls like zombies in a movie looking at things. Since zombies don’t have wallets and even if they did they wouldn’t know what it was for, zombies have poor memories, they don’t buy. This can be a problem. It becomes almost a duty that people perform even if they have no intention of spending. Although some people are obviously spending, who else would proclaim that they saved money on their haul unless they actually bought something? The real question is whether what they bought was worth the credit card bills come early next year.

For years consumers have engaged in hardcore consumption with disastrous results. People bought houses they couldn’t afford, maxed out their credit cards and generally lived a lifestyle they couldn’t sustain. How times have changed. Today’s shoppers are paying cash more frequently and I find myself doing the same. There are also people paying with the good old fashioned check instead of the credit card. I was recently shocked by a store that could not handle the process of taking a check for a purchase. One would think I was trying to pay with Euros or something. This is probably why the malls are packed but shoppers aren’t crowing about the great deal they just got. If you’re not willing to overextend yourself, you might just opt out of the whole thing. Also a lot of people bought a ton of stuff before the recession and really don’t need any more. After all, how many flat screen TVs do you really need?

On the other hand, jewelry sales appear to be holding their own. Shoppers are holding out and making a large purchase for something special or simply buying affordable well chosen pieces. Jewelry doesn’t always have to be expensive or the alternative, costume. There are many inexpensive, well-made pieces available and no, it’s not an oxymoron. I’ve also noticed that many jewelry purchases are also “add to” pieces. This means that you buy a basic set or start a bracelet and add to it as time goes by. This spreads out the purchasing into smaller more affordable chunks. Another theory I have is more people are investing in jewelry just in case the world devolves into chaos they can quickly grab a commodity and go, although this theory is probably not solid. So remember during the holidays it’s the thought that counts and if your thoughts turn to jewelry, it’s possible to find a great value without having to wear riot gear to fight your way through a crowd.

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